How to Use Data to Guide Action and Improve Efforts

Data is important for understanding the problem of suicide in communities, determining the specific geographic areas and populations to focus on, and identifying goals and objectives for your efforts. In fact, using data in these ways is part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) comprehensive approach to suicide prevention. Data should also guide which programs, practices, and policies to put in place. Your suicide prevention efforts are more likely to have an impact if they are based on available data and its use.

Data can also help you determine whether you are achieving your goals over time. You can measure the activities that have been conducted and track short-, intermediate-, and long-term outcomes. These data can help you and other program planners adjust as needed.

Developing the ability to use data effectively might seem overwhelming if you try to do it alone. Establishing a group of data partners can help you use data effectively and accurately. This group should be made up of people with access to data; those who actively use it (e.g., public health staff, local program evaluators, higher education students and professors, coroners or medical examiners); and those who can support data collection, analysis, and program evaluation.

For specific information on using data to inform strategic planning visit the Planning Element.

There are three key areas for achieving the Data element:

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The Auglaize County Suicide Prevention Coalition in Ohio analyzed trends in their county’s death record data to identify which population was experiencing the greatest number of suicide losses. Data showed that 18 to 24-year-old men were experiencing the greatest number of suicide deaths in their community. These data spurred the coalition to partner with local bars and restaurants to reach young adult men with suicide prevention information and resources.”

– Donna Dickman, Ohio Certified Prevention Specialist, Director of Development for Prevention Awareness Support Services